I was surprised to see Ken Starr’s essay, “Can I Vote for a Mormon?,” in the Washington Post the other day. I know that Romney and Huntsman are practicing Mormons and for some evangelical voters they don’t sit well with them for that reason.
Still, Ken Starr? and the Post giving column space to this question… what does this tell us?
If Ken Starr sounds familiar, it should. This was the guy who took the Whitewater investigation of the Clintons and turned it into the impeachment trial of a president. He is now president of Baylor University.
Basically Starr wrote that the real test of a candidate’s fitness is not his/her religion, but does the candidate subscribe to the Constitution and will protect and defend it? The political positions are what should determine whether we vote for the candidate.
It seems pretty obvious. When John F. Kennedy ran for the presidency in 1960 he addressed that question as a Roman Catholic. That speech put the issue to rest. Questioning a candidate’s qualifications because of religious affiliation hasn’t been an issue until this year. (Let’s note that in 2000 few made a stink about Sen. Lieberman being Jewish when he was Al Gore’s running mate.)
It seems we’ve taken a huge step backwards. Well, maybe not all of us, but certainly a significant block of committed Republicans have.
A few years ago Starr’s essay could have been a parody. Not voting for someone because he /she is not a Christian seems almost laughable, except that it’s not. Maybe this has been growing since Obama came into office – remember when people wondered if he was a Muslim because his name was Barack Obama?
It’s really a sad day for this nation that such an essay appeared in a paper of the Post’s caliber. It’s as though we’ve lost our bearings and that we have to have this basic civics lessons about our nation.
I fault the leadership of the GOP for this. They showed no leadership to correct and admonish those in the party who incited opposition to the President because his name was not a “Christian” name (even though he addressed the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in 2007). Whereas they should have said it doesn’t matter what religion you are or are not to be president, by winking at the religious question and encouraging it by not discouraging it, they’ve got themselves in a box.
Frankly, I’m not a fan of Romney or Huntsman, but it has to do with their positions, which are too far to the right for me. But from my perspective, they are the more reasonable of many unreasonable candidates running to be the GOP standard bearer. They shouldn’t have to struggle against religious bigotry. Unfortunately, we have a significant percentage in our nation who have not learned that such bigotry is unacceptable and un-American.